Dressed for far colder weather, Armand makes a strange spectacle in Final Cut. Krakow cannot believe Nico sends the man over to his corner, especially when he told the demon he wanted to be alone. His disgruntlement soon changes when he realises there's something different about Armand. Has Nico done the impossible and found someone Krakow can finally share intimacy with?
Krakow has the answers to Armand's lonely existence and a cure so Armand no longer has to feel cold.
Final Cut Miami: Toasted
Sharon Marie Bidwell
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Sharon Marie Bidwell
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The busy atmosphere inside the bar did nothing to ease Armand's fatigue. All it did was add yet another item to his list of annoying things -- a list he changed as often as there were hours in the day.
Trying to ignore the stares, smirks and associated whispers his attire attracted, he made his way over to the impressive display of bottles on shelves behind an equally striking expanse of glossy wood, aiming for one of the few empty bar stools. He'd grown used to the attention over the years. It wasn't his fault if he felt the cold, any more than he could help it if the woolen argyle knit he'd picked up on his travels looked peculiar, not only for the time of year, but for Miami. Armand had notched up numerous countries as well as a list of annoyances over the years. Too many years. More than he cared to count. These days he hated looking in the mirror. His unchanging appearance had actually begun to frighten him.
A familiar icy doubt chilled him throughout, despite his clothing. He'd always felt cold, but recently his discomfort seemed to be growing worse. The cold tormented him both inside and out. As he eased up onto one of the tall stools, it took all his concentration not to shiver. Sometimes people thought he was sick or a potential plague carrier if he wasn't careful.
Scanning an array of different colored liquids in a myriad of bottles of such varying shapes and sizes as the bar's patrons, Armand dithered over which drink to order. Would the bar serve coffee if he asked? Steaming, piping hot, black coffee with a shot of brandy might just do the trick, but he knew even if he drank it scalding, way past boiling point, it would warm him only for a short while. It would also attract more attention if he asked for it that hot and drank it down without any visible signs of pain or injury.
The bartender turned to him, holding up one finger, indicating he'd be only a moment. Armand blinked. Despite the noise of the crowd, Armand sensed the man moved quietly, and he wouldn't have been able to hear the bartender even if the room were silent. As the barkeep finished with a customer and glided -- yes, definitely glided -- toward him, Armand found himself staring into the man's startlingly dark eyes. Armand sensed an energy coming from him, something otherworldly.
Armand blinked, snapping out of his stupor. Had the man hypnotized him a little? If the bartender were something other -- and Armand had experienced enough strange things in his years of travelling to know such things existed -- then he was the only one who seemed to have sensed something different. No one paid any attention when the six foot tall, well-muscled guy behind the bar slid a tall glass across. Ice filled a third of the glass -- something Armand shivered at the sight of and positively didn't need. The rest of the glass held dark, sparkling liquid, threatening to overspill the brim. Even as Armand stared at the glass, bubbles broke the surface of the drink, popped and fizzed.
"I haven't ordered," Armand said.
"This is what you need."
Armand wanted to laugh, but his amusement would have emerged sounding rueful. No one had any idea what he needed, least of all a bartender.
"Name's Nico," the bartender said. "I just started working for the owner, Sam. I always know what people need. Drink this."
"I... What is that?" It looked like a drink a woman would order. At least there wasn't an umbrella in it.
"What?" Armand blinked.
"It's called a Toasted Almond."
"Oh." For a moment there he'd thought the bartender -- Nico -- had said, toasted Armand. "What's in it?"
"Disaronno, whisky and coke."
"Disarwhatno?" He couldn't be certain, but it looked as if an actual smile tugged at Nico's lips.
"Disaronno. It's Amaretto, an Italian liqueur. Try it."
Armand reached out, fingers settling around the glass with some hesitation. He blinked, surprised to find the chill of the ice didn't make him flinch as much as he'd expected. He raised the glass and took a sip. Almonds and the smoky bite of whisky and coke exploded on his tongue. It... wasn't bad. He even quite liked the smoldering qualities of the taste. He made a non-committal gesture, a slight tilting of his head, as he set the glass back down.
"Anything else?" Nico's tone implied he knew there very well had to be.
"I don't suppose you rent rooms?"
"No." Nico looked him up and down while Armand tried not to squirm under the man's penetrating gaze. It felt as if Nico looked right through him, knew more about him than Armand knew himself.
"Nico, busy here!" an attractive, flustered man behind the bar said, ringing up a payment.
"Yes, boss!" Nico said, grinning. To Armand, he said, "Hang around. I'll see what I can arrange."
As Nico turned back to the display of bottles and began to fill other drink orders, Armand turned his head to glance at the door. He felt like making a run for it. The neon Final Cut sign above the door had pulled him in. Now he wasn't so sure he'd made a wise move. Feeling torn in two different directions, he couldn't decide whether to stay or to put as much distance between himself and the strange bartender as possible before he collapsed from exhaustion.
The cold always exhausted him. It snaked and slithered, finding every little gap in his clothes, and then snuck in to stroke his skin. Feeling this chilled all the time was tiring. He didn't know how people went on expeditions to the North Pole. What choice did he have? Although the interior of the bar was far from warm, outside he'd feel even colder. For now, he wasn't going anywhere. He'd sit and sip his drink, savoring what shelter and comfort the bar offered. As the alcohol began to work its way throughout his system, Armand began to relax. He still felt cold, but at least the urge to shiver had died off.
"Go sit in the corner."
Armand looked up, startled when Nico whisked away his empty glass to replace it with a full one. He couldn't remember finishing the drink. He realized he was staring at the bartender with what must be a clueless expression on his face.
"Go sit in the corner," Nico repeated. "You'll find it warmer."
He opened his mouth to ask how Nico knew he was cold, and then realized his clothes were explanation enough. It both surprised and pleased him that Nico avoided teasing, and instead of a scathing comment, chose to offer him a solution. Armand turned his head following Nico's nod to the corner. He spotted a slightly shielded nook of the bar he hadn't paid attention to before. It looked a little dark and gloomy compared to the rest of the interior. He didn't know why or how it looked that way, no more than he could understand why it would feel warmer to sit there.
"Trust me on this, the way you trusted me with the drink. Try it."